Natural Perspectives: Gardening is in my genes

April 25, 2012|By Vic Leipzig and Lou Murray
  • Strawberries, bell peppers and tomatoes grow in the backyard. Two cabbages remain from the winter crop.
Strawberries, bell peppers and tomatoes grow in the backyard.… (Lou Murray, HB Independent )

While Vic prepared for class one day last week, I transplanted some strawberry and bell pepper plants into one of my three raised garden beds. Then I watered my vegetable garden with a watering can, using stored rainwater from our rain barrels.

I know that doesn't sound like much work, but it took me most of the morning.

Done for the time being, I sat on my deck and looked out over my backyard, satisfied with what I saw. My vegetable beds are all planted for the season, my fruit trees are loaded with the promise of a record harvest, and all three hens are laying eggs again.

While I was resting with my cup of coffee, I thought about why it is that I love to grow food.

I garden in part because I have to. I don't mean out of financial necessity, because Lord knows I spend far more on my garden than the food is worth, from a strictly financial point of view. I mean that I am driven to grow food.


I garden because it is in my genes, deep down in my DNA.

For thousands of years, my ancestors tilled the soil instead of manufacturing shoes, working in silver or weaving tapestries. If you look at my family tree on my father's side, it is farmer, farmer, farmer all the way back. On my mother's side, there were doctors, lawyers, preachers, and — a lot of farmers.

My ancestors first arrived in the New World in 1644 at Jamestown. Mostly, they settled in the states of Virginia and North Carolina, with succeeding generations moving west to Kentucky and Tennessee, then north to Indiana in the 1800s.

My ancestors were pioneers, often the first white settlers on their property. Generation after restless generation moved onto virgin land. They cleared it, plowed it and planted it.

My father lived on his uncle's farm until he was 16. Growing things was in his blood. We often went back to the farm where he was raised to visit his cousin, who had inherited the farm. My childhood was filled with talk of growing corn, making silage and raising hogs.

When I was 12 years old, my father showed me how to plant a vegetable garden. I didn't pay much attention to it, which must have been a disappointment to him. But the lesson stuck.

I planted my first vegetable garden back in 1962 at the community gardens at Purdue University, where I was an agriculture major. Like a good farm wife, I canned the surplus produce.

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